Beauty. Mom was a beauty. Dad was good looking for a ginger, but Mom was out of his league, easily an 8 to his 6. He was a good guy, and she knew a bargain when she saw one. They met at the University of Arizona in the early 1930s. He was a senior, she was a freshman. He lived at Aunt Helon's house. She was a friend of the family, an honorary aunt. Mom lived on campus. Dad helped Aunt Helon out around the house in exchange for room and board. The Vermillions paid Mom's way. Their courtship lasted about two years. They got married September 1, 1934. That was the year Dad got his Masters Degree in Range Management, as it was then called. He was a professional ecologist long before the word was in common use.
Intrepid. When Dad was writing his Master's thesis, Mom pitched in as his typist. She was an intrepid typist. I have some elegant tiny lapel pins that are medals she won for typing, one for 90 wpm. I don't think I ever cracked 50 in my touch typing class. His thesis examined the virtues of a minor dryland grass, Rothrock's grama aka Bouteloua rothrockii. Dad's thesis was legendary in our family. Mom had to type it at least three times, and it was not short. Peggy and Tim made up a song: Boota-loota-lowa roth rocky-eye, rocky-eye, rocky-eye… Sung to the tune of Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho.
The house that John built. After graduation my dad got a job with the Forest Service and the newlyweds moved to Ft Collins. Dad built a house for them there that was the stuff of family legend. Legendary because he build it mostly himself and because of what he left unfinished: the basement. It was just the two of them at first, then Gail in 1936 and Peggy Jo in 1939, I think. There was evidently plenty of room upstairs, and the unfinished basement was the humorous tag to any family story about Ft Collins. Dad planted two Colorado blue spruce trees on the otherwise open lot. The other tag was Those trees must be pretty big by now. When I was living in Boulder in the mid 1980s I took a drive with my girlfriend up to The Fort, as I heard someone call it once. An easy Sunday drive along the spectacular scenery of the Front Range. I had the address. I knew it by heart by then from family stories. The spruces were visible from several blocks away. We knocked on the door. When we explained our mission to the retired couple living there they were most gracious, inviting us in to tour The House that John Built. The basement's still unfinished.